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CAC report tells story of how county residents connect to arts and culture

CMA Chalk Festival

Cuyahoga County's population utilizes arts and culture in a variety of ways, from museums and theaters to smaller community festivals and neighborhood events. Recently released findings from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) show just how connected residents are to the region's arts offerings.
 
CAC's 2015 Report from the Community shares stories of county residents impacted by the 210 organizations CAC funded in 2015. Self-reported data from these groups revealed more than $383 million arts-related expenditures county-wide, including upwards of $158 million in salaries to 10,000 employees.
 
Other key statistics from the report include:
 
* 50 percent of CAC-supported programs had free admission in 2015
 
* Nearly 6.9 million people were served by arts programming last year, including 1.5 million children
 
"The report provides good evidence of the story we're telling," says Karen Gahl-Mills, CEO and executive director of CAC. "Arts and culture is having a huge impact on Cuyahoga County."
 
Gahl MillsNor are culture lovers only visiting conventional venues like the ballet or a gallery, notes Gahl-Mills. Nature and science organizations, community gardens and other non-traditional entities are attracting crowds through their own arts-infused efforts.
 
"It's not just big institutions; we're shining a light on smaller organizations," Gahl-Mills says. "There's extraordinary variety."
 
This year's report also relates the experiences of community members impacted by arts and culture. One featured resident is Patty Edmonson, an employee at the Cleveland History Center, who returned to the region to curate the center's 13,000 dresses and 40,000 textile objects.
 
"Residents are the ones who benefit from the dollars we invest," says Gahl-Mills. "We use tax dollars to support the arts, so we need dialogue with the public to understand what work we can do."
 
This summer, CAC has been visiting festivals and events to get further feedback from the community. The undertaking includes "street teams" going out to barbershops and farmer's markets and asking folks what inspires them about the arts. Gahl-Mills says public funding for the arts is a key facet in making Cuyahoga County a vibrant, attractive place to live.
 
"People care about the arts and we need to hear from them," she says. "The more we know, the better grantmaker we can be." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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